Table Manners Around the World
A great way to prepare for your travels is by doing some research on the different traditions and customs of your destination. As you can imagine, these vary greatly from country to country. It may be that a behaviour that is considered polite in one culture is completely unacceptable in another culture. From Italy to Japan, here are some of the most unique customs and table etiquettes to follow on your future endeavours.
In Thailand, you won't find a knife on the dining table as the food should already be in bite-size pieces. For most dishes, people eat with a spoon on their right hand and a fork on their left. However, it is considered rude to bring the food to your mouth with a fork. Hence, the fork is used to place food on the spoon, which is then brought to the mouth.
In many countries, slurping is seen as impolite, especially while eating or drinking. However, in Japan everyone slurps while eating certain foods, such as soba noodles, ramen and udon. According to the Japanese, slurping improves the taste of the food, and also prevents your tongue from burning from the hot meal.
#3 Middle East and India
In some parts of the Middle East and India, certain tasks are assigned to each hand. You must try to keep your right hand clean so you can use it to pick up food and other “clean” things. The left hand is generally only used during visits to the restroom and is therefore not suitable for eating.
Empty cups can also cause misunderstandings. The Bedouins are Arab desert dwellers and coffee is a common drink for them. However, if your cup is empty and you try to return it, it will be filled repeatedly. In the Middle East, the custom is to shake your cup when you give it back, so the host knows that you have had enough coffee. If you do not do this, you will be drinking coffee all day.
#4 South Korea
Eating at the table has more footing in South Korea than some other countries around the world. In most countries, it is considered polite to wait until everyone has their food so that the meal can be enjoyed together. In South Korea, it's a little different as everyone waits until the oldest person at the table begins to eat. Only then, can the rest of the company start eating.
During your trip to Italy make sure that in a restaurant, you never (and we mean really never!) ask the waiter to sprinkle cheese over your seafood pasta. The combination of fish and cheese is not done in Italy.
Similar to a few other Asian countries, in China they eat with chopsticks instead of using forks and knives. While using chopsticks, there are a few rules to follow. For example, you cannot stand them upright in your rice bowl. You must also not wave them at other people, make the sticks on the table point to someone else, or play with your sticks. Only use them for what they are intended for.
#7 India, Japan and China
Emptying your plate of food also has different meanings in certain cultures. In India and Japan, it is a sign of appreciation when you eat everything on your plate. Whoever prepared the food knows that you liked it, so it is a compliment to the chef. In China, you should not do this as they think you have not eaten enough. Therefore, it is wise to leave a tiny bit leftover on your plate when you are in China.
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